Popcorn Hour A-100 Review

Discussion in 'Audio Visual' started by MR CHILLED, Jun 1, 2008.

  1. MR CHILLED

    MR CHILLED D'oh!

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    Links

    In case people don't already know the Popcorn Hour is a networked media player. Previously I had the Zensonic Z500 which was fantastic for the 3 years I had it, the unfortunate thing was that with the increasing popularity of quality high definition content the Z500 chipset was unable to decode H.264 standard files.

    Pictures

    Here's a few pics of what you get in the package, and I won't post too many because there are plenty of better detailed pics on the net....

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Official detailed pics: http://thebvs.com/ccd/index.php?xrl=http://thebvs.com/pics/index.php?/category/1

    Discussion

    Setup was easy, plug it in turn it on and away you go. Although.....I did plug it straight into an HDMI connection (to TV) and could not get a picture at all. I tried another HDMI cable and still could not get a picture. Consulted the very brief manual and discovered the TVMode buttons where you can change TV modes on the fly. Tried all the buttons (720p, 1080p, 1080i etc etc) and still could not get a picture.

    I then swapped over to component leads and straight away got a picture. After quite a bit of mucking around I did manage to get it working with HDMI - it seems as though a firmware update fixed this. In the end, after browsing the official forums a few other people have had the same issue and it may be because of non standard TV resolutions; not really too sure. Anyways, it's working great on HDMI now.

    The menu system is very intuitive and remote buttons clearly labeled (there is a picture of the remote in the official wiki I've linked below). No reading of the manual even needed. As long as you have a basic understanding of the concepts of network media sharing then you can quickly go through all the menus and setup the device in minutes.

    Apart from the HDMI problem, the only other large problem I had was with buffering times and streaming high def H.264 content from a networked PC. Initially over SMB the buffering time for a 8.5Gig H.264 file was about 50seconds, which I thought I could probably live with because it is only when you start the file. But I discovered it obviously also occurs when you fastforward/rewind through the file. So quite annoying. Upon investigation I found that buffering times could be reduced to virtually zero by using media server software such as MyiHome which reduced my buffering times to about 3 seconds now (on file startup)....when fastforwarding/rewinding it is about 1-2 seconds. So basically a non issue now. Apparently using NFS will reduce that even further. The problem I initially had was from using streaming H.264 content over SMB....so I advise to not bother with it because of the large buffer times.

    I'm not really into Youtube clips on the unit as I can just go to my PC for that, but I did have some initial problems getting any youtube clips to work. This was for the most part resolved with a firmware update. I didn't really buy the A-100 for online tv website video/music streaming (eg youtube etc), that stuff is just a bonus really.

    In terms of sound it has a SPDIF Digital coax connection (not Toslink as I discovered, but this doesn't matter).

    I popped in a 200Gig IDE drive and the hard drive mounting was simple/easy enough but in the end I found the drive be mounted slightly askew when I put the drive in with the provided screws mounts. It was as much as a few mil out of align on one side of the drive. Everything seemed to work fine though.

    The ethernet network connection is only 10/100 so transfer of large files up to the hard drive can take some time (17 minutes for 4.5Gig file).

    Pros

    Cons

    This looks like a long list of cons but if you go through them individually as far as I'm concerned this are all VERY VERY minor annoyances. Well at least to me they are anyways.

    Conclusion

    This is a brilliant little player for most peoples high def video requirements. The annoyances were minor in the end after a little bit of investigative work. It does absolutely everything I wanted in a media player and then some. Every time I start it up I discover new things that make the experience even better. This was a little unexpected but the quality of picture is much much better than my older Zensonic Z500; movies seem a lot clearer now and sound quality has even improved.

    I'm by means no expert in this area but happy to answer any questions as best I can.

    Chilled Rating: 9.6/10
     
  2. G-PhresH

    G-PhresH Member

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    10/100 ethernet and the buffering seem to be the only major downsides also if you could plug in a usb blu-ray player i would be sold

    but sounds like an amazing little unit, and for $250 it looks like a bargain!

    nice review dude :)

    +1 for your 1337ness
     
  3. afro

    afro Member

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    seems like a decent remote too, is it?
     
  4. OP
    OP
    MR CHILLED

    MR CHILLED D'oh!

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    I shuold make it 100% clear, there is no buffering on any of your normal mpeg/divx stuff.....the only time it ever happened was on high def encoded files, and you can reduce that to virtually nothing anyways. So it's not an issue unless you want to use SMB. But you wouldn't want to use SMB when there are other much better alternatives.
    Yep, remote is good. Got plenty of functions and very easy to use. It also has in place some buttons that will be used in future firmware releases. Keypad functions input is SMS style.
     
  5. G-PhresH

    G-PhresH Member

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    ahh ok well it sounds awesome!

    now fingers crossed for it to support an external blu-ray drive when they become avaliable

    im dreaming but whatever, i like to dream :p
     
  6. d0nkey

    d0nkey Member

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    i have had the popcorn hour for about a month now and it has grown on me greatly.

    at first i had the same issues like the video input and the buffering times but now it has been smooth sailing.

    I would like a resume feature and maybe an improvement in the seek but other then that i am happy with it.
     
  7. MUTMAN

    MUTMAN Member

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    whats the torrent client like?
    scheduling, ip blocking, queuing options, would need at least these to warrent any usefulness as a bt client
     
  8. GreasyBear

    GreasyBear Member

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    I don't suppose you could plug a console into this and output it to say an LCD (with a VGA input only) can you?
     
  9. trza2k

    trza2k Member

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    Nope, no inputs and secondly i couldn't get mine working with any PC LCD's i had.

    I got mine in December last year but still find myself using my XBMC, i only use the popcorn when i need to watch HD stuff.
     
  10. seb

    seb Member

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    I have two questions.

    1. How is it at navigating music play lists? (I also noticed that it doesn't play FLAC, ogg or many audio formats at all).

    2. Does it play EVO files? I have bought a couple of HD-DVDs and the xbox360 hd-dvd drive; I ripped the discs so I could make them available across the network for a htpc, then I saw this device so am reconsidering. Cyberlink 7.3 will only play the ripped hd-dvds if I mount the files as a drive image first.

    Thank you for the review, I noticed talk in ocau and WP forums just recently and was hoping someone would write one up.
     
  11. davidw89

    davidw89 Member

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  12. tfroggydawg

    tfroggydawg Member

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    My experience with HDMI was similar to yours, the included HDMI cable didn't work so I had to grab the one from my ps3. I have ordered a 1.8m cable from less than $10 delivered from ebay so its not a huge deal.

    I am pretty sure running myihome (http) is the best way to stream files over the network. I saw a specs thing somewhere that showed it has the highest bandwidth. Went http>nfs>smb

    720p/1080p files look and play amazing, my XBMC xbox is now in storage and my monthly quota has taken a hammering :D :lol:
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2008
  13. hoopstar

    hoopstar Member

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    can it display jpg files..??

    Edit: Where did you buy it? I have signed up an account on the home page but it fails to recognize my pre-order purchase..??!!!


    Hoops
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2008
  14. OP
    OP
    MR CHILLED

    MR CHILLED D'oh!

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    I haven't tried it yet, apparently works very well, but don't be mistaken for thinking it is a full fledged BT client.
    As said above no inputs apart from USB.

    TBH I'm not sure yet as this part of it I haven't gotten around to playing with yet. I don't know about those other formats, all I will ever need to play is mp3. In my wanderings I thought FLAC and ogg support was added in a firmware release (I'll confirm this).

    Sorry, without googling I'm not even sure what EVO files are : )
    List of types and speeds is in the wiki linked above: http://www.networkedmediatank.com/wiki/index.php/Main_Page

    Absolutely, and also has some basic options for slideshows.
    Straight from PPH website links, through google checkout. I think you need a google login to do this. Firstly I signed up with a PPH login using the "Pre Order" button. Seemed to go straight through first time for me.
     
  15. gizmo_melb

    gizmo_melb (Banned or Deleted)

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    schweet - my Popcorn Hour arrived this morning, so I quickly plugged it into an LCD with HDMI in the office and the thing just worked (using the supplied HDMI cable) :) So then I plugged in an external 2.5" HDD and was able to play some (SD) .AVI xvid rips from it with no hassles.

    Tonight I'll connect it to the Sony Bravia (using HDMI) and do some testing with an internal HDD and playing 1080p source video etc.
     
  16. Rampar

    Rampar Member

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    What do you mean by "Currently cannot access USB hardware from a networked PC - although I think this will be addressed in a future firmware update"?

    I am streaming off an external USB drive plugged into my PC via http and smb shares.

    cheers,
    Rob
     
  17. WindMinstrel

    WindMinstrel Member

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  18. flain

    flain Member

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    HDMI Problem

    For those with the HDMI problem, this might sound silly but did you make sure you chose a HDMI option when setting the video mode?

    I had the same issue where it wouldn't work on 'auto' but when i changed it to "1080p HDMI" i got a picture. (note the component video modes are seperate modes and are different codes).
     
  19. gizmo_melb

    gizmo_melb (Banned or Deleted)

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  20. OP
    OP
    MR CHILLED

    MR CHILLED D'oh!

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    Moving files through the network, not streaming from the USB device.

    "Killa sampla"? Is this a large file? WHat is it suppossed to do? Or kill? : p

    Yep, of course, via the TVMode buttons. I tried every which way, all options.
     

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